The origin of the name Agnew is disputed, although it is generally asserted to have been Norman, from the Barony d’Agneaux. The Agnews first settled in England but later appear in Liddesdale, Scotland towards the end of the 12th century.
A separate origin has also been suggested through the Celtic natives of Ulster, the O’Gnimh, who were the hereditary poets or bards of the O’Neills of Clanaboy, and who acquired the anglicized name of Agnew. In English the name was first written as O’Gnyw and O’Gnew. This would give the Agnews a shared origin with the Clan Donald from Somerled, who was the 12th century King of the Isles.
15th and 16th centuries
Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw was granted the lands and constableship of Lochnaw Castle in 1426. In 1451 he was appointed Sheriff of Wigtown, an honour still held by his direct descendants.
Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw was killed at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, fighting against the English.
Sir Patrick Agnew was MP for Wigtownshire from 1628 to 1633, and again from 1643 to 1647. On 28 July 1629 he was made a baronet of Nova Scotia. Agnew married Anne Stewart, daughter of the first Earl of Galloway. When he died in 1661, he was succeeded by his eldest son, Andrew, who would also be returned as MP for Wigtownshire. He had been created Sheriff of both Kirkcudbright and Wigtown in the 1650s, while Scotland was part of the Protectorate with England.
Andrew Agnew, the fifth Baronet, married a kinswoman, Eleanor Agnew of Lochryan, with whom he had twenty one children. He was a distinguished soldier commanding the 21st Foot (which later became the Royal Scots Fusiliers) against the French at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. King George II of Great Britain, the last British monarch to led troops in battle, remarked to Agnew that French cavalry had been let among his regiment. Sir Andrew replied, “Yes, please your Majesty, but they didna win back again”.
During the Jacobite rising of 1745 the Clan Agnew continued their support of the British Government. Sir Andrew held Blair Castle, seat of the Duke of Atholl, against Jacobite forces. Agnew’s forces were near starvation when Charles Edward Stuart called the Jacobite forces to retreat to Inverness to meet the advance of Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. See main article: Siege of Blair Castle.
- Lochnaw Castle was the seat of the chief of Clan Agnew.
AGNEW: This name is said to derive from the Baronie d’Agneaux in Normandie, and to have arrived in Scotland via England and Ireland to become established in Galloway. The first of the name in the Scottish record appears in the 12th century, but such is of a Norman knight who witnessed a Borders charter. Family tradition, dating from c.1666, brings the Agnews to Galloway via Ireland in the reign of David II (c. 1360), but the first on record at Lochnaw is Andrew Agnew, who became Constable of Lochnaw in 1426 and Sheriff of Wigtown in 1451. Adding controversy to the theories of origin, a recent thesis has suggested that the Agnews may in fact derive from one of the old families of Ulster who were of the same blood-line as the mighty Somerled, ancestor of the once powerful Lords of the Isles, represented today by Clan Donald. It may well be that Agnews of today are of two distinct origins, now inseperable by time. The fall of the Douglases from the King’s grace enhanced the fortunes of the Agnews in Galloway, but such brought them into conflict with the MacKies and MacClellans etc., who, envious of their success, frequently raided the lands of their Sheriffs, whose kinsmen invariably retaliated. When Mary Queen of Scots was deposed and imprisoned in Lochleven, the Galloway lairds recognised the infant King James, but on her escape, almost to a man, they re-aligned and, jeopardising their inheritance, espoused her cause until she was ‘safely’ in England. Sir Patrick of Lochnaw became a Baronet of Nova Scotia c.1629 and during the oppression of the Covenanters later that century the Agnew Sheriffs refused to implement the harsh measures of the Privy Council, such costing the family its hereditary offices. These were restored to Sir Andrew who took an active part in the Revolution of 1688 and remained in the family until 1747 when heritable jurisdictions were removed from all.
Agnew History(source: http://www.scotclans.com/scottish_clans/clans/agnew/history.html)
The ancestry of the name Agnew is not unusual in that it appears to have two possible sources; The most accepted version is that the name is French in origin, coming from the Barony d’Agneaux in Normandy who settled first in England and then migrated north to Liddesdale around the 12th century. The other possibility is that they were connected to one of the tribes of Ulster, maybe as a sept of of O’Gnimh (pronounced O’New). This name would have gone through many variations; O’Gnive, O’Gnyw, MacGnive, and finally Agnew. This version of events would relate Agnew to Somerled and the Lords of the Isles (clan Donald). Indeed many Agnews are found in Ireland so there may be some truth in this theory.
Reliable records begin in the 12th Century when Sir John de Courcy was accompanied by Agneau, an Anglo-Norman knight who was witness to a borders charter between Ranulf de Soulis and Jedburgh Abbey. The Agnews of Lochnaw were appointed sheriffs of Galloway by David II In 1363 and rose to power in this area.
In 1375 The Agnew Lord of Larne accompanied Edward Bruce, younger brother of King Robert the Bruce to Ireland where he had been invited by the Irish Lords to help rid them of the English and rule in their place. Agnew stayed with Edward for three years while he attempted to establish his power.
In 1426 Andrew Agnew was appointed Constable of Lochnaw Castle. and later in 1451, Sheriff of Wigtown. His great grandson Patrick Agnew, was a contemporary of of Queen Mary and James VI. While the Agnews rise to power in the south west of Scotland had been under the Douglasses when this clan fell from the Kings favour the Agnews in Galloway in fact benefited. However this then brought them into conflict with the MacKies and MacClellans.
Patrick Agnew’s son was 7th Sheriff of Wigton and was created a baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles I. His son, Andrew was MP for Wigtounshire and was knighted and created Sheriff of Kirkcudbright. He married Anne Stewart, daughter of the first Earl of Galloway. Sir Andrew, the fifth Baronet commanded the 21st Foot, (Scots Fusiliers) at the Battle of Dettingen in June 1743, the last time a British monarch, George II, commanded troops in person. Sir Andrew held Blair Castle against the forces of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, led by Lord George Murray in 1746. The garrison had been virtually starved out when Murray was called away to tackle the approaching Cumberland.
The present chief of the name and family of Agnew is Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw. Sir Crispin is the appointed Rothesay Herald at the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms.
Lochnaw Castle near Stranraer was bought by an Australian Miss Del Agnew in the 1950’s and is now run for the trust.